Tamil Nadu villagers object to supply of groundwater to water-intensive industries

Allikulam and Servaikaranmadam residents have demanded the district administration to seal the borewells that are operating without any approval and initiate criminal action against the suppliers.
Image used for representational purpose only. (Express Illustrations)
Image used for representational purpose only. (Express Illustrations)

THOOTHUKUDI:  Amid the rising water scarcity issues in rural areas, the people of villages having adequate sources of groundwater have taken exception to water from their region being supplied to various industries. Allikulam and Servaikaranmadam residents have demanded the district administration seal the borewells that are operating without any approval and initiate criminal action against the suppliers.

With the summer heat intensifying, the borewells supplying drinking water to the rural public have already dried. The villages not interconnected with the combined drinking water schemes face acute water shortage and the poor residents are now forced to buy water for Rs 15 per pot, as against the cost of Rs 10 a few weeks ago. Usually, tanker lorries come to their rescue. These tankers bring groundwater from Servaikaranmadam or Allikulam, which are known for their good groundwater resources, located 25 km away from Thoothukudi.

However, the people of these two village panchayats have strongly objected to some borewells that are being operated illegally in their area for supplying water to industries. Both civic bodies have also unanimously passed resolutions to prevent unapproved borewells to supply groundwater to industries, during the gram sabha held on May 1 and the subsequent monthly panchayat meeting.

Though the owners of tanker lorries claim that they supply water to the general public in water-scarce areas and to meet the essential needs of the hospital, schools, colleges, and restaurants, the villagers outrightly denied it and alleged that the tankers predominantly sell the groundwater to water-intensive chemical factories, agro product units, fertilizer companies and other industries.

Speaking to TNIE, Allikulam Panchayat president Anandhi said there has been an acute water shortage in the village since March this year, after the borewells in Murugan Nagar, a hamlet in the village, dried up. The borewell sunk up to 650 feet by the panchayat for supplying water to the public did not yield any water owing to around 70 unlicensed borewells operating in the area round the clock to supply water to industries, she added.

"When the villagers intercepted the tanker lorries and forcibly stopped supply from these illegal borewells, the dried-up panchayat borewell got recharged and started to yield water again," Anandhi said.

Similarly, Servaikaranmadam panchayat vice president Jenitta Jebastin and the ward members had petitioned the district administration to take action against the illegal borewell operators and the tanker lorry operators who are depleting the groundwater table in their area. Jenitta told TNIE that the village, once renowned for its groundwater resources, is facing a dry spell and the water salinity has also increased.

"The Tamil Nadu Water Supply and Drainage Board (TWAD) operates a combined drinking water scheme for 27 villages from Servaikaranmadam since 1981. Hence, the district administration must keep a tab on the unapproved bore wells and tankers and initiate action against them," she added. The tanker lorry operators have sought the intervention of the district administration to settle the issue.

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